On a Mission to Develop Entrepreneurial Engineers

Thursday, December 08, 2016
Craig Downing

Expanding Horizons: Craig Downing, head of the Department of Engineering Management, is increasing students' business acumen through several on- and off-campus programs.

The fact that it's become more common to hear the phrase "entrepreneurial mindset" than topics of engineering, science and math at Rose-Hulman is music to Craig Downing's ears.

As head of the Department of Engineering Management, Downing has helped expand and refine the institute's academic offerings to increase the business acumen within a greater portion of students - through on- and off-campus programs.

"Today's students view entrepreneurism through lenses that are quite different than what traditional classroom instruction can effectively support. As such, [Engineering Management] must stay immersed and active in the local and regional entrepreneurial ecosystems to maintain relevance," he says.

The next step in the program's growth, according to Downing, is expanding the department's online offerings to reach an even larger population of students and professionals.

"The future of entrepreneurially minded engineers is somewhat boundless, and we will continue to facilitate opportunities to produce as many engineers with these skills as possible without compromising our educational process," remarks Downing. "We want to develop students that are capable of adding value from both the technical and enterprise perspective. They should have educational experiences that simulate the array of career opportunities afforded them after graduation."

The institute's role in entrepreneurial education hasn't gone unnoticed or unrewarded. The Kern Family Foundation presented Rose-Hulman a $2.25 million grant to support development of entrepreneurially minded programs, and the college was recognized by the foundation as Best in Class in the Kern Entrepreneurial Education Network.

Meanwhile, a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. supported the establishment of Escalate, a living and learning community preparing students with a business awareness to become tomorrow's technical leaders. The grant also has supported the Rose Innovative Student Entrepreneurs organization along with building relationships between students and entrepreneurs through the Launch Terre Haute program.

Downing was recently named a fellow of the American Society of Engineering Management (ASEM), based on excellence in service, demonstrated engineering management accomplishments, and distinguished contributions to the organization. He received ASEM's Meritorious Service Award in 2015.

His areas of expertise include industrial-academic relationships, quality management system development, and productions/operations management. Downing continually explores new research opportunities related to quality and operations management. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and has industry experience as a process engineer and private consultant for organizations such as Lockheed Martin/NASA, Parker Hannifin, Crain Enterprises and Peerless Pump.

Downing also has been a faculty mentor for Rose-Hulman's National Science Foundation-supported Making Academic Change Happen workshops, which has developed change agents at educational institutions across America.